Tropical forests cover less than 5% of Earth’s surface, but they support almost half the species on the planet. Current deforestation rates and climate change threaten to destroy these precious reservoirs of natural capital.
The Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network is an innovative partnership between Conservation International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Smithsonian Institute with the goal of better understanding how tropical forests are responding to a changing climate and disturbed landscapes. This wide-reaching partnership allows TEAM to monitor more than 100 vegetation plots and almost 300 species of mammals and birds across 19 protected areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Data collected from TEAM sites are analyzed and made publicly available in near real-time to provide data-driven insights for protected area managers.
Many of the regions in which TEAM works are globally recognized for their high rates of biodiversity — and many are the last remaining habitat for critically endangered species, like the Sumatran tiger.
Monitor tropical forests
Although tropical forests are home to many of the world’s species, much about them is still unknown. Even less is known about how they are responding to changes on a global scale. TEAM collects data in 15 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America so scientists can better understand how these forests are responding to changes at local, regional and global scales.
Make data available to all
For TEAM, free and open data is not only a priority; it is an essential part of how the partnership operates. With more than 2 million wildlife, 5 million climate and 300,000 vegetation records, it would be nearly impossible for TEAM scientists to analyze all of the data themselves. By making the data freely available, TEAM opens the door for scientists and others around the world to analyze the data in a way that best meets their needs.
Improve protected area management
In addition to providing all the data for free, TEAM partnered with HP to develop the Wildlife Picture Index Analytics System — a publicly available and easy-to-read dashboard that is automatically updated as new data is added to the TEAM database. This tool provides protected area managers with up-to-date information about species trends at their sites as well as factors that are driving those trends, such as climate and human presence.
By the numbers
TEAM currently monitors more than 270 species of tropical ground-dwelling birds and mammals in different 15 countries to detect signs of population decline.
Over the past six years, TEAM has collected more than 2.2 million images of animals using motion-activated cameras. This data is crucial to understanding how various tropical forest species are adapting to a changing climate and encroachment from human settlements.
More than 8.6 million people rely on the 19 protected areas in which TEAM works for ecosystem services — such as fresh water and a stable climate.
Protecting food security in Costa Rica
TEAM is currently working with protected area managers in Braulio Carrillo National Park, Costa Rica to develop a management plan for several small mammals, such as the lowland paca, Central American agouti, and nine-banded armadillo, which have seen significant declines in recent years in response to increased hunting pressure, competition for resources and higher predator densities in the area. Improving enforcement and limiting the number of animals that can be hunted are essential to ensuring that the forest can continue to provide food for local communities.
We can only monitor global threats if we have studies running at a global scale and that’s what TEAM is doing.
Badru Mugerwa, TEAM Site Manager, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda